Three Wolves have claimed Brooklyn as their territory. The trio echoes whispers and silences murmurs. They handle the flow of information and intelligence in the ears of the Syndicate. They are involved in the movement of resources, cash holdings and setting up schedules for workers. But what this trio truly markets is secrets. Secrets are everything to the brothers; it is their currency, their weapon of choice and their thickest armor. The wolves have done ... things to control the value of secrets and through this they seem to know what everyone in and out of the Syndicate are up to. Like puppet-masters, they can drive others to carry out their will, whether they want it or not.
Do you believe in ghosts? Do you think that the walls have ears? Do you watch for eyes peering out at you from the pitch black alley ways? Wait, before you answer, consider the apartments of those in Brooklyn, New York. In these homes, there are altars to the powers they worship and next to these shrines will be a totem of dedication, of compliance to the three wolves, to the brothers of Brooklyn. The totem comes in many forms; a doll, a painting or even a small statue. No matter the embodiment, it is always the same image. Three wolf heads coming together as one, and the center wolf with stitched over eyes.
It's said that the missing eyes of the wolf haunts the city, seeking secrets and quieting rebellion. Seeking those that do not comply with the will of the three wolves. That is why the superstitious in Brooklyn display there totems. Many believe that the wandering eyes seek refuge in the blind wolf and these eyes; when housed in the totem, will see only what you allow them to see, but a home that does not bear the totem risks the wandering eyes falling anywhere and everywhere. These wandering eyes may find a home in you.
So. Do you believe in ghosts? Howls in the dark alleyways that herald a disappearance? Maybe bloody tears from the stitched out eyes of a three headed wolf statue? If you still do not, welcome to the slaughterhouse. If you know better, welcome to Brooklyn. Welcome home.
How I never learned to choose between a slingshot and a bazooka
Balance, I suck at it. In a static story, a controlled, meticulously woven tale, I can balance the heck out of; thugs, red herrings, lieutenants and my big baddie. That's not true, not really. I can IN THEORY, but since I haven't FINISHED any stories, I can't guarantee that claim. In a dynamic role-playing game, with players and shifting stories, I am simply NO good at the necessary balancing act required to make the game rewarding.
In every game I have run, for over a decade, in every setting that I know; from Faerûn (Forgotten Realms/D&D) to Star Wars I have made challenges that either get steamrolled by my players or I absolutely annihilate them like the insects they are. (Asterisk)
How does this keep happening? Two reasons for me.
One: Mismatched Gaming Group Whenever the balance of my games went the way of [insert socially accepted dead thing], I had a hodgepodge of experience among the players. So the challenges that would be suitable for new players were being devoured whole by the experienced players at the table while the challenges that would keep my experienced players on their toes would absolutely leave the new players broken in confidence (which is not conducive to a good gaming experience).
Two: Not understanding the strengths of the players. When I did have a group of all experienced players or all new players, I did not always understand (as I should have) the strengths of the players and their characters. A group of stealthy characters with one brutish hulking fighter are best suited to avoiding fights, dealing with traps and other roguish abilities. Then I would review the characters and find that these rogues were all more of the silver-tongue type and not the lock-picking type so they would be trapped with no way out.
There were ways around both problems and in reality I have maintained a bit more balance than I let on but those times that I lost control I had to use a neat trick that was available as game-master, I cheated. Not for myself, I cheated to keep the players alive. This was the asterisk I listed above.
This has run on for quite a bit so I will wrap this up, but another time I will discuss what things I have done to fix this, but I would like to know what you (the readers) have done to overcome this balance issue or leave a Gaming horror story. Drop a comment or head to the forum topic with the same title.
People make the world they live in a complicated place. Not to get philosophical or haughty, but people draw lines of separation based on ideology, appearance, location of birth and familial history. We aren't discussing the rights or wrongs of this, we are noting that it fractures the people in the world and so breaks the "world" itself. This was the mindset that we took when designing the setting of our game.
With the system in place, we knew what the limits of mankind were and expanded on the potential of the players who will in all likelihood have powers that cause mankind's potential to be left in the dust. We noted how with the full bodied social conflict system in place, we could have a silver tongue politician slide into power based entirely on charisma or emotional manipulation. That leader, with greater than human charisma and intellect, could possibly create drastic, sweeping changes to the hearts and minds of people and save the world from itself!
So we broke the world.
We took proverbial pipes, chains, whips, hammers, whipped cream cans and bottles (again, entirely proverbial) to the structure of the world. We created organizations that wanted multiple, sometimes opposing, results and rewards. We created people that were polar and opposing, wanting what others found detestable and tried to block things that others found to be beneficial.
Then we corrupted the world.
We corrupted those in power and polluted the morals of those that make decisions, we made a zero-sum game of most decisions so anytime someone "wins", everyone else loses. Finally, we put characters of equal skill working in all directions, opposing everyone else.
The result is a world that teeters on a daring and dangerous event horizon.
The corrupt threaten to bring people down into the dirt, forever blinded to their potential for greatness. Starving for more and more, thrashing like monsters of myth and legend, for scraps.
The selfless seek to save the world from itself and to move the people to their greatest possible futures, on this world and beyond! Moving past a world of consumption and quarreling over resources and instead devoting the heights of mankind's thoughts and efforts towards a future rivaling any science fiction setting.
Either result is currently a valid possibility in game. For a short time, we regretted it. The corruption, the fear, the frustration in and outside halls of power, they echoed too much the complaints of politics in the real world and who wants to play a game to get more dashes of real life?
We let those feelings pass. The methods of power have to buckle and bend, bloated ideas that crush those beneath itself are absolutely the way for us to go because we realized, it is only when the world is broken that those who truly want things to be better can rise to fix it (or go out in a snuffing blaze of EXP riddled glory).